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How To Save Money When Moving Because Of Separation

in Advice, Moving Costs by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

family-law-329569_640Whether you’re separating from a spouse or from a roommate, you probably see costs adding up. Bills are suddenly doubling while the income isn’t. While Ninja Movers can’t really help with most of that, there are ways to help control the cost of the move, even if there is more than one.

It’s possible that if you are moving in the same general direction, your two moves could be treated as one. It takes a special sort of organization, but it could save on time.

If you are consolidating the moves, it’s critical that you are very well organized before hand. Label absolutely everything and color code it. Put colored sticky notes on furniture and mark boxes with matching colored labels or markers. It’s also a very good idea to inventory everything.

Instruct the movers that you will have two separate deliveries. They don’t need to have anymore information than that. Be assured, they don’t need the details of a messy divorce. While the movers can find which possessions need to be loaded first (the last and furthest stop), it will save you money to bring everything that will be unloaded last to the front. When they are done loading those items, they will load the items that will be unloaded first.

It’s best to arrange that one person pay the bill or that it be cut in half. The movers will not be able to itemize how much each move costs, although, and this is a big exception, if an estimator sees the move beforehand, he can give you a cost for each individual move. If you haven’t had an in-person estimate and if you feel that you aren’t in an amicable enough a situation to split the bill in half (or whatever prearranged split you discuss), it’s probably best to do two separate moves.

You also want to have separate moves if you are moving in different directions or if one person is moving out of state and the other is staying. Out of state moves are billed by weight while local moves are billed by the hour.

Tips to make your Move Easier

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

You have finally decided to move to a new place. There is something about the change of environment that nothing else can quite compare to. It can be an exciting time for your whole family, or it can be a real nightmare – depending on how you organize and how you feel about it. With the large number of activities involved, it is easy to get lost in the chaos of organizational tasks and stress from the moving.

It is very important to keep a cool head and plan ahead the process to go smooth. Here are few tips on what to consider in a removals operation.

Digital Image by Sean LockeDigital Planet Designwww.digitalplanetdesign.com

–        Give yourself enough time – whether you are doing the removal yourself, with friends or professional house movers, it is important to give yourself enough time to plan, prepare and execute the move to guarantee stress-free experience and avoid any potential problems.

–        Get good quality packing supplies – and enough of them too! You will want the movers to bring everything of your old house and into the new one in one piece. For this reason it is important to do a proper research on how to pack your belongings properly as well as what packing materials to use for the job. Boxes are a must, as they will be used generally for a large number of objects, but you will also need some specialized containers – for glassware and other kitchen equipment for example. Ensure that the packing supplies are properly stacked, to avoid damage to your items inside. It is a good idea to let the movers load, if you don’t have the experience for it.

–        Label your boxes – as you pack your stuff, you will find the number of boxes increasing and you might be overwhelmed easily, if you don’t label them. Use a marker and label on few sides of each box to assure that once you move, you will be ready to unload your belongings and you will navigate through the boxes with ease.

–        Separate your valuables – money in cash, important documents and jewelry are three things you should keep with you during the move. This is to ensure they don’t get lost among all the other stuff and that will be floating around. You’d want to keep your eye on them during the move to ensure their safe relocation.

–        Pack few boxes with essentials – keep those with you as well. Those are things that you will need as soon as you arrive in your new home or during the move. For example, these items could be baby equipment and food you will carry, especially if the move is a long one.

Each of the aforementioned tips will work towards making your move a smooth and pleasant experience, rather than a commotion. Ensure that you implement these suggestions before the moving van arrives and you will avoid any problems. For more ideas: Man with a van Ilford.

Introducing Your Cat And Dog To Your New Home

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Moving with pets can be especially difficult because they have no idea what’s going on. While you and even your children might see opportunity in a new home, pets only see insecurity. Reassurance is the most important part of moving with a pet.

Cats and dogs require some of the same care when moving but dogs are much more easily adaptable. Conventional wisdom says that cats are attached to their surroundings while dogs are attached to their people. There’s a lot of truth to that, but it’s also overly simplistic. Dogs do get upset when being uprooted from their surroundings and cats do get attached to their people, although perhaps not as obviously. Here are some tips for moving each:

If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat or an outdoor cat, allow more time for the transition process. Begin several weeks before the move by feeding and entertaining the cat inside the home as much as possible. The ASPCA has some great tips for moving an outdoor cat indoors.

If your cat is an indoor cat, the transition will be similar to that of a dog. First, get your pet used to a crate. Dogs are naturally drawn to cozy crates, so if you have a younger dog, that should be no problem.

Check your new home for any escape routes. Check for holes in the fence or areas where a dog can dig his way out. Make sure all the doors latch. Keep doggie doors closed for a while until the dog is used to his new home. Close windows or secure all screens.

Cat and puppy proof your home. Even dogs who you think have outgrown bad behavior might revert to some old habits. Hide electrical cords and window cover pulls.

During the move, confine the animals to crates or to a single room. Provide lots of comfortable bedding, a blanket that smells like you and some familiar toys. Provide a litter box for the cat. Familiarity is key.

Once you are moved in, dogs will be somewhat comforted by the smell of your belongings, but it’s a good idea to avoid leaving the animals alone for a couple of days. Acquaint them slowly. Play games by putting treats in various areas of the home.

Keep the routine. Even if you are in the middle of the move, feed your animals at their normal feeding time and if you have dogs, take about 20 minutes to walk them. If you can spend more time, better. A tired animal is far more likely to adapt well.

If your pet is having trouble adjusting or it is very nervous or skittish, your vet might be able to help with some anti-anxiety medication to help get through the move.

How To Create Boundaries When Moving In With A Roommate

in Your New Home by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Roommates used to be like keg stands and all-nighters; we left them behind at college or shortly after. However, rising real estate prices, people staying single longer and an aging population looking for ways to stay social and active are causing a resurgence of roommates – of all ages.

Moving in with anyone can be stressful, but when the relationship is strictly platonic, things can even get more complicated. How do you divide the groceries or do you? What about visitors?

In the past, I’ve had several roommates and not a single one of them was a friend going in. A few of them are still friends. When you move in with a roommate, the odds are stacked against you. It might work out for the duration of the lease. In rare circumstances, you’ll find roommate magic. My personal philosophy is that friendships are too precious to risk in such close quarters, but if you do decide to move in with a friend, there are ways to make things easier.

Ask if they are morning or night people. Neither makes someone a bad person, but opposite sleeping schedules can make for an awkward roommate situation.

Ask about food and smoking. You don’t have to eat together, but a vegetarian might hate the smell of meat cooking. A non-smoker probably will hate the smell of cigarettes.

How to meet a roommate – While I don’t recommend moving in with friends, you can ask friends. You want to have something in common with your roommates and friends of friends might indicate that you enjoy the same music and some of the same activities. Craigslist or other online sites are risky, but with credit checks and references, you should be okay.

Lease – I recommend that only one name go on the lease, just in case things don’t work out, but the landlord might require that both names go on. I also recommend that only one name go on utilities.

Deposit – The lease holder should treat the roommate as a tenant. Require a deposit and run a credit check and get at least two references. This is much easier if the potential roommate is a stranger. You’d be surprised at what you don’t know about your friends.

Ground rules – Once you’ve found that roommate, it’s time to set up some ground rules.

  • This sounds an awful lot like living with the parents, but it’s a good idea to designate a quiet time during the week, especially if one person is a light sleeper. It’s not too much to ask that headphones go on at 11:00.
  • Figure out how to divide the food, or not. I have found it easiest for each person to buy their own food, especially if the roommates aren’t on the exact schedule. It is a good idea to share condiments, spices and cleaning supplies. Note, though, cooking together is a great opportunity for bonding.
  • Cleaning is a biggie. Do whatever you want with your bedroom (close the door) but keep the common areas clean. It’s a great idea to start a chore chart. Wash your dishes after using them. Take out the trash when full, not when overfull. Vacuum, dust, clean the bathroom, mirrors and floors at least once a week. If you can afford it, hiring a weekly cleaning service has probably saved more roommate situations than anything else.
  • If one or both of you have pets, discuss pet care. It is the pet owner’s responsibility to walk and feed the pet, not the roommates, but it’s nice to have a roommate who’s willing to pitch in. I once had a roommate who didn’t even offer to walk my dog after I had surgery. That was a sign of a short-lived situation.

 

 

 

So You’re Thinking Of Renting Through Airbnb?

in Advice, Bay Area Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Depending on who you talk to, Airbnb is either the greatest thing since there was no room at the inn or it’s a way to help destroy the Bay Area’s already tight rental market.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

In case you aren’t familiar with Airbnb, it’s sort of like an eBay for short-term rentals, only without the bidding. Homeowners, or in many cases leaseholders, rent out either a room or the entire place for a nightly, weekly or monthly rate – presumably while they’re on jaunts of their own.

Since it’s relatively new to the market, there have been few regulations. Many landlords prohibit subletting and I assume that some leases are specifically mentioning that that applies to short-term rentals as well. But in cities like San Francisco, where the housing market is very tight for people who live here long-term, until recently, people have been hoarding properties and renting them out at higher short-term rates, rather than settle for lease prices.

In October of last year, San Francisco passed some regulations for the short-term rental market, including setting a maximum of 90 days a year for any given property and paying hotel taxes. Here is more information on the law.

If you still want to try it out, Airbnb might be a great way to help pay for your own vacation or a way to help finance your own living space without the commitment of a roommate.

Like eBay, Airbnb offers star ratings for both renters rentals. The more quality reviews, the better. That can be a bit of a sticky wicket at times. Even while you are on vacation, being disruptive or making too much noise can result in bad reviews. If you plan on really partying, you might want to stick with a hotel. Unfortunately, complaints can also ring up bad reviews, so if you clog the toilet while renting, it’s a good idea to fix it yourself.

On the other side, most is pretty obvious. Keep your place immaculate. Invest in coordinating linens. Paint the walls. Make sure everything works perfectly. Your goal in the beginning is to rack up good reviews, which might mean cutting your price and adding extra touches like gift cards to local restaurants, a box of chocolates or a bottle of California wine.

Give your guests a binder full of restaurant menus, public transportation information, local sights and activities. You also want to list any peculiarities your home may have, such as a door that needs to be lifted before opening.

Neighbors may not like the idea of strangers staying next door. You can do one of two things; you can either pretend they’re your friends or you can talk to your neighbors, telling them that you only rent to top-rated renters. I recommend the second.

While location is everything, there are many renters who want the San Francisco experience without paying San Francisco prices. If you are on the BART line or within easy commuting distance to the city, you can still generate good prices. Wine country is another huge draw, as is Silicon Valley, especially for business travelers.

There are no guarantees, though. I just plugged in my address and the monthly net was less than we pay every month. Regardless, check them out. It could be worth it for you.

How To Get The Most Possible Money When Selling Your House

in Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Depending on when you bought your home, there’s a very good chance that you have quite a bit of equity right now. Still, there’s probably a lot you can do to increase the selling value of your home and a lot of them are pretty simple.

1. Clean up the outside – Try to look at your house as if you have never seen it before. If that’s tough for you, ask a friend or coworker to give you an objective opinion. Curb appeal is the first thing new buyers see and you’d be surprised at the number of potential buyers that let that be the last impression.

Do you need to paint or do you need new siding? Even if the siding is in good shape, make sure it’s a neutral color. Personally, I love purple houses, but I’m in a small minority. the same holds true for other more creative shades.

Fill bare ground with ground cover or lawn. Add some shrubs and flowers to the front. Shutters and an accent door add a lot of personality, without being offensive, to the house.

2. Clean the inside – This takes work and will constantly need to be maintained while the house is being shown. Dust and vacuum every single day. Never, ever leave a dish in the sink. Make sure all the beds are made and that each has matching or coordinating bedding – in other words, no two different colors of pillow cases. Make sure the bathrooms have clean, preferably new, matching towels. Potpourri is always a nice touch, as are subtly scented candles. The old Realtor’s trick of baking cookies actually does help.

3. Renovate the bathroom – Bathroom renovations can be anything from brand new spa-like fixtures and tile to new light fixtures and faucets. Regardless of your budget, caulk and add new linens.

4. Renovate the kitchen – Yes, that’s expensive and might not be worth it. Ask your Realtor, but there are some things you can do without spending too much. Paint, scrub your appliances spotless, add a new backsplash. You can even paint your cabinets, which takes about a weekend or two. If you have the budget, knock down walls for an open look and build an island/breakfast bar. Replace your appliances with stainless steel.

5. Paint the inside – Again, use neutral colors.

6. Add an additional bathroom if you have room – Most Bay Area homes don’t have basements, but there are many homes with wasted space. If you can add a bathroom, it should add to the value of the home. Again, consult with your broker and perhaps a contractor to weigh the value.

7. Don’t define rooms for buyers – Some rooms are obvious. A kitchen is a kitchen. A bathroom is a bathroom, but your home office might be another’s playroom. Your TV room might be a home office. Put neutral furniture in those rooms, such as a sofa, chair and maybe a small desk that can double as a plant table.

8. Change light fixtures and buy new bulbs.

9. Add solar – In California, we have plenty of sun and solar rooftops can add thousands to your home’s resale value. It’s best if you go solar before selling your home, so you can benefit from the cost savings too.  A solar water heater is also a great investment.

10. Add hardwood – If you can afford new flooring, hardwood is the most popular option. There are several types of hardwood flooring and there are laminate floors that look like hardwood but aren’t. Gauge that based on your neighborhood. A high-end neighborhood will require high-end flooring. A starter neighborhood may be fine with laminates.

Four Moving Apps To Help Take The Stress Away

in Preparing for a move, Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

I’m not going to lie to you. Even when you hire a great moving company, moving is horrible. You go from settled to unsettled in the blink of an eye. Boxes become your life. The place and the people near your hold home become memory. Fortunately, technology hasn’t left you behind. There are several apps that can make things a lot easier.

1. Moving Planner (Andriod) and Moving Software Pro (iOS) – Both apps are made by Jinbl Software Labs and both have more than 210 household items and todo items. If you’re a snob for grammar, this might not be the app for you, but you can’t beat its practicality. If you absolutely don’t have time for a mover to visit your home prior to the move, this tool will help both you and the mover make an accurate estimate. Both are only $.99 and are fully refundable if you aren’t happy.

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2. Moving Day (iOS) – Moving Day goes even a step further and it’s free. It allows you to barcode scan and label every single box. You’ll know what goes where and what might be missing. If you see a damaged box, you’ll know what’s inside before opening it. If you’re as generally disorganized as me, this app will be a life saver.

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3. MoveMatch (Android) – MoveMatch is the perfect app for people who don’t have the time or energy to meet people. With MoveMatch, you can take a thorough, professional inventory of all your goods and send them to movers in your area. If your inventory matches, movers should be able to give you a guaranteed price. It also works for storage, commercial moves and for overseas moves.

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4. Gas Buddy (iOS and Android) – If you plan on driving your car or a moving van across country, don’t even think about not downloading Gas Buddy. It will tell you the cheapest gas stations on the road and it’s free.

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Safes And Other Difficult Items To Move

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image courtesy Wikimedia.

Image courtesy Wikimedia.

Most moves are pretty cut and dry. Three or four movers pack and move. Wham bam. It might not be instantaneous, but generally there are few major problems. There are some items, though, that are particularly difficult and moving companies have to know in advance so they can bring the proper tools.

1. Safes – Obviously, this depends on the size of the safe, but if you have a man-sized fireproof safe, a moving company will need special tools and sometimes additional men.

2. Pianos – When you get your moving quote, the mover should always ask what kind of piano you have. They aren’t being snobs. The size of the piano will make a big difference in preparing for the move. The piano might require additional men. It will require additional equipment. It’s highly advised that you wait to tune your piano until after it’s moved.

3. Appliances – Moving appliances is relatively easy, but you want to make sure everything is disconnected before the movers arrive. You want to disconnect the water line on your refrigerator and on your washer and dishwasher. If you have a gas dryer, it’s a good idea to have a professional disconnect that and reconnect it at your new home. Movers can typically refer you to professionals.

4. Propane grills – Moving companies can move the grill but they can’t move the propane.

5. Children’s playground equipment and trampolines – A mover must see playground equipment before it’s moved. Playground equipment generally takes a lot of disassembly and it can take up considerable room.

6. Fish tanks – It probably goes without saying, but fish tanks and aquariums need to be emptied and drained before being moved. Most credible movers will do more than just throw a blanket over the aquarium. It should be boxed.

7. Fine art – Fine art of all kinds should be custom packed. The mover will need to assess and measure. Some pieces will require wooden packing crates.

8. Murphy beds – Murphy beds, the kind that fold into the wall, are especially common in small apartments. Without proper equipment, they can be very dangerous. They are heavy and they can accidentally open. Discuss murphy beds with your mover.

9. Sofa beds – Sofa beds are much easier than murphy beds, but they are heavy and the bed mechanism should be strapped down.

10. Scrap – Yes, scrap can be moved, although it might not be cost effective. It’s generally best that if there’s a lot, it has its own designated truck.

Most of your possessions will be very easy for most movers, but if you have any questionable items, ask. It’s a mover’s job to find solutions.

How To Find A Mover

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

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In the two decades I’ve been in the moving industry, the biggest change is in the way people now have to find movers. It used to be relatively easy. All a person had to do was pick up their local Yellow Pages. If a moving company had a listing, or better yet had taken out an ad, it was a pretty sure sign that if nothing else, the company had been around for at least a little while.

Things have absolutely changed. You might find a few movers in the Yellow Pages, but most have taken their advertising dollars to the web and there’s a good chance you haven’t cracked open a Yellow Pages in years either.

The problem with finding a mover (or anyone) on the internet is that advertising on the internet is cheap and instantaneous. That means that any fly-by-night company can appear right next to a very reputable company, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to tell.

Let me start with a very basic primer on how search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo work. They have two kinds of listings. One are paid listings, which are ads. Those are at the very tops and the sides of your search results. You’ll also see ads related to previous searches during your web browsing.

The second kind are called “organic” listings. Organic listings are the ones that are in the body of the search engine and are most similar to Yellow Pages listings. Companies don’t pay for them.

Advertising on search engines can be expensive, depending on the search terms used, so that sort of rules out the fly-by-night companies right there, but it takes a while to show up on organic searches, so companies have to at least put a little time in the business.

There’s a third type of listing on search engines and those are their business listings. If a company is registered with the search engine, they will appear in the middle of the first page of results, with the ability to map the company. You might also see reviews.

Truth be told, though, finding a moving company through a search engine is only half the picture. Google (with the exception of Google business listings’ reviews) can’t tell you a whole lot about a company, except for what the company wants you to know.

You still need to do a little legwork, which can also be done online. If business listings have reviews, read them. Look on Yelp and Angie’s List. The Better Business Bureau is a little antiquated these days, but as one source of information they are fine.

It’s also a great idea to check with people like your real estate agent.

Ask your final choices for their licensing information and run that through SafeSys.org.

Finally, and this is very important, have the company give you an in-person estimate and make them guarantee their price.

What Do The Movers Expect Out Of The Move?

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

1795763_818068038217889_6419290821201040947_nWhat do the movers expect out of the move?

Okay, that’s a strange and a bit of a trick question. The most simple answer is that the movers expect their customers to be happy. They expect that the move will go smoothly, with no headaches.

They expect that there will be no damages. They expect the move to go as quickly as possible with as much grace as possible.

But, that’s not really why you’ve clicked on this link. You want to know about things like tipping and feeding the crew. While none of that is expected and no one will ask, except maybe for a glass of water, if customers feel inclined, there are some guidelines that can be followed.

Food: Movers work very hard and they do get very hungry. Some will pack their own lunches, but it’s always appreciated if customers order a pizza or some sandwiches.

Note that lunch breaks are on their time, not on yours.

Drinks: The first couple of times I moved, I bought every variety of drinks my local 7-11 had. At the end of the day, I realized that the movers generally only drank maybe one or two of the varieties. Then, I learned to call ahead or simply ask when they arrive.

Moving crews often adapt to each other, which means they often drink the same thing. Sports drinks and energy drinks are particularly popular. So is good old fashioned water.

Tip: I can’t stress strongly enough that while some movers do ask for tips or do that not-so-subtle hesitation before they leave, it’s bad, bad form. It’s actually a sign of a very bad moving company – or at least one who isn’t too concerned about your opinion.

That being said, if the movers do a good job, tips are absolutely appreciated. In general, 5 percent of the move ($50 on a $1,000 move) is reasonable. You could also just tip $10 or $20 per mover, depending on the length and difficulty of the move.

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